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New Israeli government off to rocky start as swearing-in ceremony delayed

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JERUSALEM — The swearing-in ceremony for Israel's new government has been delayed until late Thursday and might be postponed to next week, indicating a tough road ahead after prolonged and contentious coalition talks.

Almost two months after winning Israel's election, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was supposed to have presented the lineup of his ministers to parliament followed by a swearing-in ceremony Thursday evening. But the proceedings were delayed due to a request from Netanyahu's office.

Israeli media said the delay was connected to last-minute disputes over ministerial appointments. Netanyahu was meeting with disgruntled lawmakers late Thursday, hours after the ceremony was to have begun.

Officials say the process could run late into the night or even possibly be delayed to Monday, as Friday is a sacred day for Muslim members of parliament and Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath.

It was the latest sign of the troubles facing Netanyahu as he assumes the premiership for the fourth time.

It took Netanyahu the full six weeks allotted and rounds of furious haggling to clinch deals with potential political partners. The coalition he managed to cobble together last week leaves him with just 61 seats, the slimmest majority possible in the 120-seat parliament.

His narrow coalition, dominated by nationalists and religious parties, sets Netanyahu's government on a collision course with the international community and critics at home.

The arrangement also leaves him vulnerable to his partners -- even individual lawmakers -- and gives him little room for maneuver.

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